Censored play must go on

Brianna Pebley

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Last semester, Orland High’s theater class experienced a little controversy when school administrators censored the latest play by their teacher, Tim Milhorn. The Tender Yellow Sky focused on the topic of teen suicide, something the superintendent wasn’t comfortable with being performed on school grounds. So, Milhorn and his cast of students, including Brianna Pebley, took the play to the Blue Room Theatre in Chico, where it met with great response two nights last week (Jan. 12-13). The play was so well received, in fact, that the Blue Room is bringing it back for one more run, this Saturday (Jan. 23) at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5. Pebley played the “savior,” the one against drinking and drugs and who helps her friend after her boyfriend’s suicide. The 17-year-old senior plans to go into the Air Force after graduation, much to the dismay of Milhorn, who told her, “No, you’re going to take acting classes!”

How long have you been acting?

I was in drama my sophomore year and then theater last year and this year. I just fell in love with it. It felt natural to me. To be able to entertain people like that, to get them to cry, to get them to laugh, to get them to be in awe, is awesome.

How did people respond to the play?

A lot of people said it’s the best performance they’ve ever seen at Orland High—or at least by Orland High students. It was an honor to be a part of that.

How did you feel about the whole censorship thing?

I was really irritated because it’s not like we would ever perform a play if we knew that it would hurt somebody. It was never Mr. Milhorn’s intention to have a copycat suicide. That was ridiculous. A bunch of teachers went and said, “What was so wrong with this play?” What was it? We don’t know. They just didn’t approve it. We were mad, because it was a really awesome play, and we wanted to perform it in front of classmates, teachers and families that were here in Orland who might not have been able to make it to Chico.

Did the play address problems that you and your classmates are going through?

Oh, yeah. There are a lot of people in this school who have thought about it [suicide] or even tried little things, like taking some pills or some pain relief like cutting. I think it’s a major issue, just like any other issue like alcohol or partying—and we’ve done plays like that in the past, here at Orland High. But when it comes to suicide, we can’t talk about that. It’s an issue that needs to be talked about; it’s not like we can avoid it.